Monday, September 21 – Day 16
Today started out nice and slow. I had breakfast around 8, and I took a picture because the croissant was so pretty!! I also got a picture of Estelle.
Google said Pech Merle didn’t open until 9:30, so there was no reason to leave super early. The cave is only 700m from Cabarets.
I got there right in time for a tour. They have very strict rules about cave visits. It has to be with a tour and they only allow 700 people per day. You are also not allowed to take any photographs. They say all photographic rights are reserved for research purposes, although I’m sure it’s also for monetary purposes.
The cave itself is a rather nice cave with cavey formations. The tour was in French, but they had an English guide book that I could follow along in, which was nice. It was pretty surreal to see the paintings in their actual setting. They estimate the paintings are about 25,000 years old and were done by Cro Magnons. Something that I thought was really interesting is that some of the drawings were done using the natural lines in the rocks. It was neat to see. Apparently Cro Magnon men are pretty similar to modern men. They like to draw their women with exaggerated body parts. I’m sure if you google Pech Merle you can see the pictures I couldn’t take. They also had some bones on display found inside the cave. Who knew there was such a thing as a cavern hyena?
As I came out of the cave, Annie was there, along with a German man she had been walking with. I asked Annie if she was going to take a tour, and she said she had seen it 35 years ago and it was still the same. Good point.
I only had about 18k to go, so I kind of took my time. It was nice not being in a rush, after the last two days.
The first city I came to was Bouziès, which seems to be fairly touristy or resorty. I was going to continue on, but as I looked down the street I saw someone waving at me, so I went to check it out. It was Annie and her German friend. They were having a drink. I decided I wanted some food. Because of the weekend, I hadn’t been able to restock my lunch food.
I decided to get an entré and a plat, which is like an appetizer and a main course. The entré was a smoked salmon salad type thing with pine nuts and confit tomatoes, and it was delicious! The main course, I thought I was getting some kind of beef, but fillet st. Pierre is actually fish. St. Peter’s fish? I think that’s the same fish we had on the kibbutz in Gallilee. It was better here, though. It was served with the same confit tomatoes, some beet?, artichokes, and a puree of something that I couldn’t quite tell, but it was very rich. The fish itself was also very buttery. It was really nice to have a yummy meal in the middle of a walk.
The walk itself today was unremarkable. Apparently I was doing it wrong. Estelle and Annie were both going to Saint-Cirq Lapopie, which is apparently very famous for it’s scenery. I already had reservations and did not want to add 8k on to my day. I will just have to look at pictures.
There was more up and down mountains, but the trees were taller again and there was more shade.
As I walked I started thinking about the lessons I’ve learned from the Camino so far. Here’s what I’ve come up with. I’m sure this will be added to over the next 2 months.
The path is never always up or always down. You need to have both to get where you’re going.
There is always poop in the road. You have to pay attention if you don’t want to step in it.
Always drink plenty of water.
Pee when you have the chance.
Always be nice. You never know when you will run into someone again.
Don’t judge people on appearance, or the way they smell.
The way you pack a backpack does matter.
Sometimes you have to continue on a path to know if you’re going in the right direction.
Sometimes the way not to go is marked clearly.
Everyone’s path is different.
You can get burned on a sunny day.
Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.
Always use two safety pins to attach socks to your pack.
It’s not always the distance you walk, it’s the amount of time you spend on your feet.
Sometimes it’s good to get the perspective of looking behind you to see how far you’ve come.
Just because you don’t speak the same language as someone else doesn’t mean you can’t communicate.
Take pictures of people. You don’t know when it’s the last time you’ll see them.
It’s amazing how far you can go just by putting one foot in front of the other.
Things don’t always go as planned.
It’s always a nice day for a walk.
I got to my gîte, which was supposed to be a chambre, but they had gotten the reservation wrong and had me marked down for yesterday. I was listening when the lady made my reservation at the hotel in Figeac, and I don’t think the mistake was on our end. So hopefully my reservation for tomorrow is still intact. Luckily, they did have room for me tonight, but in a shared room. Things don’t always go as planned.
Two of the ladies I’m sharing a room with I’ve seen many times, but I’ve never been in a situation to talk to them for very long. Their names are Danielle and Christine. Tomorrow is their last day of walking, finishing in Cahors. I finally figured out how to pronounce Cahors. It’s one of those French words that’s difficult for the English speaking brain and tongue to coordinate. It’s Cah-or. The first time I saw Danielle and Christine was going up a long hill after St. Alban.
I told her I thought I even had a picture of her, and found it on my phone. Her eyes got all big and she was like, “why did you take our picture?” I tried to explain that I like taking pictures of the path, and other hikers bring interest and are good for scale and perspective, but she still thought it was odd. Later, Christine passed me, and she speaks no English, but she was like, “I heard you took a picture of us.” Yes. Yes, I did.
While we were waiting for dinner, Danielle asked if I had been eating any figs. I told her I’d heard that the figs were ripe, but I didn’t know what to look for. So she and Christine took me to the local fig tree to educate me. There was a fig tree on campus when I was in school, but I’m pretty sure the one fig I tried wasn’t ripe. Christine handed me this purple fig that was so soft it was mushy. I dubiously tasted it. Holy cow, figs are amazing!!! They taste nothing like fig newtons. They reminded me a bit of plums, I think. But, wow, I had no idea figs were so good. There was also a walnut tree nearby, so they cracked open a walnut for me. I have been educated. Danielle said they ate figs all day long.
Most of the gîte was taken up by a group of 15 people!! 15! 7 couples and one single woman whose husband doesn’t like to walk. They are all between the ages of 65-70, and a surprising percentage of them could speak English (6 ish). Henri took it upon himself to sit next to me at dinner and entertain me.
So the funny thing about Ohio and the French, there are multiple ways to pronounce it, but I never pick the right one. It’s either “Oh-yo”, or “Oh-E-Oh”, or something similar to either of those. So the first question is always, what state are you from? “Oh-E-oh” “oh, Oh-yo!” (or vice versa), then “what big city? or What’s the capital?” “Columbus” always draws blank stares and is followed by, “No, what’s the big city?” “Cincinnati?” “Cincinnati! That’s it.” Everyone knows Cincinnati. So Cincinnati is both the capital of Ohio and where I am from. Although sometimes I’m from North of Cincinnati. One of the couples in the group said their daughter in law was from Urbana. So I said, “Urbana! That’s near where I live.” “Urbana is near Cincinnati?” Umm…
Dinner was delicious. The soup course was zucchini and potato. Then there was a paté course, which was deer, or “Bumbi”. Then the main course was pork cooked in duck fat, and rice with a mushroom sauce made from the drippings. So tasty. Then cheese, then one of the cake things they’re so fond of, made with plums, and it was actually the best one I’ve had so far.